Wednesday, 30 June 2010

So far so good

Mission accomplished?

It would seem so. The fightback by the supporters of ID cards has began, yet all they have done so far is make noises and remind us all why they lost the argument. But if you are interested in a broader approach to civil liberties you will already be aware that this is just one important battle won, there are many others.

So what of the future? Well first we say thank you for your support and ask you to remain alert until the bill related to ID cards passes into law. And then still remain alert! There will always be threats from the state to civil liberties but a well organised protest group can achieve results.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

It's not over yet.

Phil Booth writes:

NO2ID is now into its second phase: having won over the political establishment, we need to drive home the advantage and finish the job. You, and everyone who made the NO2ID Pledge, knew that this second phase could have been mass resistance. We can feel rightfully proud (and relieved) that it is not.

So this is good. Campaigning is clearly going to be different in this second phase, in all likelihood less confrontational - but no less important for that. What's really important right now is that folks get in touch with their new MP - see my P.S. for one very good reason to do so.

In coming weeks, we have to make sure that the details of the Freedom Bill are correct, and that they'll have the necessary effect. There's good reason to be optimistic, but we'll need to keep the pressure up to ensure the promised repeals and reforms are swiftly enacted and properly enforced.

We already know that Whitehall has been preparing for this new phase for some time. It's unlikely to give up its various empires and pet projects without a fight. But, working together, we have shown we can win.

Looking forward to a real celebration, to mark the Royal Assent of the
Freedom (Great Repeal) Act 2010...

Thank you again, Phil Booth, National Coordinator.

P.S. A Freedom of Information request published this week shows that Connecting for Health did not just sent out 10 million 'Patient Information Packs' (the letter about Summary Care Records) in the run-up to the election, as previously reported. It sent 30 MILLION!

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

NO2ID victory!

The following announcement is on the Home Office site already. Brilliant.


Both Parties that now form the new Government stated in their manifestos that they will cancel Identity Cards and the National Identity Register. We will announce in due course how this will be achieved. Applications can continue to be made for ID cards but we would advise anyone thinking of applying to wait for further announcements.

Until Parliament agrees otherwise, identity cards remain valid and as such can still be used as an identity document and for travel within Europe. We will update you with further information as soon as we have it.

Sounds good - so far.

The Lib-Dem/Tory coalition promises a major reform of civil liberties. According to the BBC:

The parties agree to implement a full programme of measures to reverse the substantial erosion of civil liberties under the Labour Government and roll back state intrusion.

This will include:

# A Freedom or Great Repeal Bill.

# The scrapping of ID card scheme, the National Identity register, the next generation of biometric passports and the Contact Point Database.

# Outlawing the finger-printing of children at school without parental permission.

# The extension of the scope of the Freedom of Information Act to provide greater transparency.

# Adopting the protections of the Scottish model for the DNA database.

# The protection of historic freedoms through the defence of trial by jury.

# The restoration of rights to non-violent protest.

# The review of libel laws to protect freedom of speech.

# Safeguards against the misuse of anti-terrorism legislation.

# Further regulation of CCTV.

# Ending of storage of internet and email records without good reason.

# A new mechanism to prevent the proliferation of unnecessary new criminal offences.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Photocopier danger

Photocopiers contain hard drives that store all the images that have been copied. It is possible to pay for security methods to deal with this. I doubt the UK government knows about this. Watch the video from CBS News as reported by Big Brother Watch.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Surveillance and feline aggression.

No doubt eventually a caring coalition will emerge and enact a law to protect us all from dangerous cats.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010


If you were relieved that the Lib-Dems and Tories have pledged to scrap ContactPoint, then the summary of databases involving children compiled by ARCH (Action On Children's Rights) makes sombre reading. The Privacy Guide for Parents details the state's recording of the minutiae of every child's life. The scary aspect of this is that the aim was probably benign and well-meaning.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Civil liberties mentioned!

At last we have a discussion on civil liberties, at the Scottish Leaders' Debate, see here. It's quite simplistic and repetitive, but does mention ID cards and the DNA database. However, at least the subject has been raised.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Ask your candidates

Two weeks from now Parliament will have changed. Whoever forms the next government, over a quarter of MPs will be new to the job. Many may not know how much the database state matters to their constituents, or how deeply it will affect them.

They need to be informed and you can help. Starting now.

Over the next fortnight make it a point to ask your local candidates one of NO2ID's seven questions for candidates at a hustings meeting or in a personal letter or e-mail. Listen carefully to what they say, and let them know you'll be following up. One of them will be your MP and needs to know you care.

NO2ID is looking for candidates to have their own opinions on these questions. We aren't seeking to punish people for giving 'wrong' answers or to antagonise them. What we are hoping is to get them outside party lines and looking at the issues for themselves. Even if they disagree with us now, a willingness to think about it will make them approachable in the next parliament.

See previous blog for seven questions you might like to choose from and here is an easy way to e-mail your candidate.

Friday, 23 April 2010

NO2ID Questions for Candidates: General Election 2010

1) The National Identity Scheme is not just about ID cards. It is built on a National Identity Register, a set of linked databases behind the cards holding an archive of personal information. The Identity Cards Act 2006 provides for lifelong control of personal identity by the state and data-sharing without the knowledge or consent of the individual. The Act permits any official document to be designated, compelling registration for anyone who needs that document. Though the UK is under no obligation to add fingerprints to the passport, the Home Office intends to make fingerprinting and joining the National Identity Register compulsory for anyone who applies for a passport from 2012.

If elected, would you vote to repeal the Identity Cards Act 2006? Would you also oppose moves to make a database of passport holders and their fingerprints a feature of the British passport?

2) Medical confidentiality is fundamental to public health. If people feel that what they say to their doctor will not remain private, they may fail to disclose vital information or avoid treatment, assisting the spread of disease. By seizing all medical records and making them centrally accessible to hundreds of thousands of people - in the NHS and outside - the electronic Care Records System destroys the assurance of confidentiality. The Department for Health is seeking now to upload from GP’s surgeries sensitive data, including chronic conditions and prescriptions. It is using a fraudulent definition of ‘consent’ in order to do it, with heavy promotion using public money, of claims about benefits that are not supported by evidence. Patients are made to jump through unnecessary hoops in order to exercise their right to opt out.

If elected, would you work to ensure that control of medical records remains with patients and their own doctors, and that they are shared only with properly informed consent?

3) The National DNA Database contains the profiles of almost one million people who have not been convicted of any crime. A few notorious cases are quoted to justify this, but detailed examination usually shows they could have been solved using proper police procedure and a database only of convicted criminals. Treating the innocent as criminal suspects corrodes relations between the police and the public, and undermines confidence in the quite proper use of DNA detection.

How should the DNA database be operated? If elected, would you vote to remove immediately and automatically all profiles of unconvicted people from the DNA database?

4) ContactPoint, an index of every child (and family) in England and Wales is now operating, despite technical and security faults. It identifies the most vulnerable by flagging those using sensitive services and is accessible to hundreds of thousands of people. It is too big ever to be secure. The existence of a "shielding" scheme, denied to most families, suggests that in fact ContactPoint itself is a potential danger to children. Putting record-keeping on a database can’t correct the failures of child protection to act, which is the cause of the most notorious tragedies.

Are the hundreds of millions spent on ContactPoint and related databases not better spent in other ways?

5) The creation of the Independent Safeguarding Authority means a massive expansion of police checking. The Authority can ban you from your career for accusations, or even for its own idea of 'risk factors' in your legal behaviour. Lifelong retention of arrest records by the police means ‘enhanced’ Criminal Records checks may treat you as a convicted criminal simply for being arrested – affecting your potential employment and volunteering, with no right of appeal. Mass checking feeds suspicion and undermines trust, but there is no evidence that it prevents any sort of crime.

If elected, what would you do to reform vetting and barring schemes?

6) Despite denying plans for a central database of communications data, the Home Office set up a new directorate just this January to push forward the £2 billion Interception Modernisation Programme (IMP). The intent is store details of everyone you call, text or e-mail and which websites you visit – providing a record of clues to your religious and political beliefs, your sexual interests and personal relationships, your financial and medical worries – ‘just in case’ they become of interest to the authorities. Phone tapping and opening mail is so sensitive that it is a power exercised only on the approval of the Home Secretary, and cannot even be mentioned in court. But collecting communications data, and building techniques for them to be arbitrarily investigated, makes much more available to be known about every one of us without any form of warrant or independent oversight.

If elected, would you vote to ensure that access to any form of personal communications is only permitted to formal investigations under warrant?

7) Tens of millions of law-abiding citizens are being routinely monitored as they travel, on the roads by Automatic Number Plate Recognition – without any legal basis – and in the air or by sea when detailed passenger records are passed to the Home Office’s e-Borders data centre even as you leave the country. Vast quantities of information, including your financial details from ticketing, and pictures of who you are travelling with, are being kept. For five years in the case of road data, and ten years at least for e-Borders. It is passed around government agencies, and even sent abroad. Such records are used to match records with ‘intelligence’ (which usually means guesses) from other sources – exposing unsuspecting citizens to suspicion, arbitrary penalties, and worse.

What limits would you place on the database surveillance of those travelling abroad and within the UK?

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Ask Nick.

I think most people would agree that, of all the parties, the Liberal-Democrat manifesto promises on civil liberties are the best. However, these are domestic policies and we need to know their views on proposed EU legislation. Liberal Democrat MEPs voted for the fast track European Arrest Warrant, under which Britons have been sent abroad to face trial, sometimes for fairly trivial offences. The Tories voted against this.

The European Union has put forward a proposal, the extended European Evidence Warrant, which would be an EU-wide search warrant that could be issued in any state, and which would be binding on all police forces. Warrants could also be issued which would force police to intercept phone calls, set up CCTV surveillance, monitor bank accounts, and even demand body samples such as fingerprints or DNA. See here.

This European Commission Green Paper proposes going much further than the European Arrest Warrant and is in essence, an expansion of Ripa powers to every state in the EU.

Naturally our old friend, Home Affairs Minister, Meg Hillier says:

We would in principle support a new and comprehensive instrument based on mutual recognition that covers all types of evidence.

Dominic Grieve, the shadow justice minister, said that a Conservative government would ensure that Britain did not opt into the scheme:

Civil liberties campaigners are right to be concerned about this extension of state power across national boundaries.

We need to ask Nick his views on this subject.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Email your parliamentary candidates.

Thanks to Police state we have a list of many of the grassroots campaigns attempting to give some power and influence to us, the voters.

Write To Them is an excellent tool. Send all of the candidates in your area an email to see where they stand on a particular issue.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

An unhealthy approach to data?

Whilst you are, hopefully, busily writing letters to the press and PPCs please note that a local patient record system is under development called the Interim Electronic Patient Record (iEPR), see here. At least it is news to me and I find that you can download an opt out letter. We are told that:

The Heart of Birmingham iEPR is an electronic patient record that contains information extracted from your GP and Hospital records and makes them available to clinical staff wherever they are treating you locally.

We are also told that:

The Heart of Birmingham (iEPR) and the National Care Record Summary (NCRS) share some similarities, such as the ability to share clinical information and robust controls over access to this data. However; the iEPR is not part of the NCRS project and does not provide information to the national system. The HoB iEPR is a local system, only available to patients registered with a Heart of Birmingham Primary Care Practice.

Presumably other trusts have a similar system. If you don't want to participate then fill in the form. Naturally there is logic in such a system BUT we should be told about it, asked whether we wish to participate and not merely given the facility to opt out when we haven't even been told the system exists and find out about it by chance!

Sunday, 18 April 2010

That's it folks.

The Green Party's 50 page manifesto gives detailed policies in a variety of areas but makes little mention of civil liberties: they would:

Oppose ID cards as they will not reduce or prevent crime. We also have grave concerns over the development of a national dataset, including detailed biometric data, which has potential for the infringement of civil liberties.

UKIP make no mention of civil liberties or the database state and the BNP don't even have a manifesto! Update- The BNP rejects ID cards as an undesirable manifestation of the surveillance society.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Tory versus Lib Dem manifestos

The Tories have pledged to: scale back the database state and protect the privacy of the public's information. However, they are short on detail and some pledges are somewhat ambiguous.

They say they will scrap the National Identity Register, ID cards and ContactPoint, good, no change here.

They state that the indefinite retention of innocent people's DNA is unacceptable, yet DNA data provides a useful tool for solving crimes - cryptic or what? They will also reform the criminal records system so it protects children without destroying trust, but don't say how.

The Lib Dems have pledged to scrap the National Identity Register, ID cards, ContactPoint and the DNA retention of innocent people. Good.

They would also regulate CCTV (somehow) and stop children being fingerprinted at school without parental permission.

They would end plans to store e-mail and internet records without good cause.

They also state that they would scrap new passports with additional biometric data. No fingerprints in passports then? Excellent.

So, why not ask your Lib Dem canvasser whether they will definitely change government policy as regards passports and annoy the EU and what they would do about the 'vetting and barring' database?

Why not ask your Tory canvasser to explain why so little detail is included in their civil liberties' policy, despite excellent rhetoric?

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Child safety or guesswork?

A FOI request by the Sun has revealed that 15,000 innocent people have been labelled criminals in the past six years. This equates to seven mistakes a day by the Criminal Records Bureau.

The victims discovered they had been branded sex offenders, violent thugs or fraudsters when they had a CRB check before a new job. Many went through lengthy appeals to clear their names.Most of the bungles involved CRB checks being mixed up, or incorrect details being given out by staff.Others involved police releasing information which was recorded wrongly when an offence was committed.

The Conservative manifesto states that the ISA's 'vetting and barring' regime would be scaled back to a 'common sense level but would retain the CRB check for those working with children. This rather depends on one's definition of 'common sense'.

Over 21,000 alleged sex crimes involving children under 16 were reported to police between 2008 - 2009, however we do not know whether sexual assaults by those working with children have increased or decreased since CRB checks were introduced, as central Home Office statistics are not collated. How many such attacks have been perpetrated by adults who have had a clear CRB check? Surely it would be easy and sensible to begin to compile such statistics and then these figures could be compared to the numbers of adults who have had lives and careers ruined by mistakes, false allegations and rumour. Not to mention the creation of mistrust and suspicion between adults and children.

It sounds silly but, surely the logical conclusion is that someone who has failed the enhanced CRB check should not be allowed to look after their own children?

Monday, 12 April 2010

Lucky veterans?

Whatever one's view of Labour's wars, one of the ostensible reasons for our forces fighting, and being maimed and killed, in foreign lands was the creation of democracy and freedom. In Labour's manifesto we find the curious pledge to introduce a free identity card to access benefits for service people leaving the armed forces, see here. Presumably the party thinks it would be doing veterans a favour.

Another pledge is the right for people to petition local authorities for more cameras (but not to take them down).

Friday, 9 April 2010

I'm still in the dark

I recently reported that the Birmingham City Council's free (taxpayer funded) magazine called Forward was delivered to my house and that, on page 13, I was informed about the council's scheme to ostensibly improve services to customers.

I am told that I am to have a single customer record - name, address, date of birth, gender, together with unspecified information which can be used to confirm my identity. The single customer record will act as an index to other customer information about me. My data will be perfectly safe - all in one place.

Also on page 13, I am told that I have the right to request that Birmingham City Council stops using my information in relation to any council service, including the single customer record.

I did this and duly contacted - They replied immediately asking for my DOB, yet ...... since then ..........

despite four requests asking for confirmation that my request had been complied with and, nearly a month later, I am still waiting....... next time I'll cc the council leader, Nick Whitby.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

They Work For You - occasionally.

We find that, despite more than 20,000 constituents contacting their MPs prior to the debate on the Digital Economy Bill, only 40 of our honourable members could be bothered to attend and this number at one point fell to 15, see here. Only 236 MPs voted on the bill, giving a quorum of just more than one-third of MPs for some of the most contentious legislation the government has introduced in 13 years in power.

TalkTalk director Andrew Heany said in a blog post, "If we are instructed to disconnect an account due to alleged copyright infringement we will refuse to do so and tell the rights holders we will see them in court." See here.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Election 2010

The BBC has a summary of the election pledges regarding civil liberties of the three main parties. There are, however, quite a few omissions, such as: the intercept modernisation programme, NHS 'spine', ANPR, the ISA's vetting and barring register, ContactPoint etc etc. Make sure you ask canvassers about some of these points if you live in a constituency where politicians can be bothered to call round.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Motorist of good character sought.

The Automatic Number Plate Recognition ANPR database is busily amassing 14 million images daily. The records not only include details of car registrations, but often photographs of drivers and front-seat passengers. The records are held for at least two years without drivers’ knowledge or permission, see here.

Liberty is seeking a motorist of good character who objects to having their daily movements stored on the ANPR database to bring a test case. Shami Chakrabarti said:

It’s bad enough that images and movements of millions of innocent motorists are being stored for years on end, that the police are doing this with no legislative basis shows a contempt for parliament, personal privacy and the law.

The ANPR network is now linked to more than 10,000 CCTV cameras and eventually the system will allow police to track the movements of all the vehicles in the UK at any time.

Guess who started all this - yes our old friend ACPO Ltd.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Write to your MP

The Open Rights Group has teamed up with 38 degrees to produce a site whereby you can write to your MP to protest against the rushing through of the Digital Economy Bill before the election without proper debate, see here. The government will be able to disconnect you from the internet, without a warrant, if a member of your family continues to download films and music which are deemed illicit. Thereafter, by mission creep, what else might be considered illicit and copyright?

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Safe in their hands!

The personal details of 9,000 school pupils have been stolen from the home of a Barnet Council worker, see here.

Twenty unauthorised and unencrypted CDs and memory sticks were stolen. Information included: pupil's names, gender, date of birth, addresses, phone numbers, unique identification number, free school meals eligibility, in-care indicator, language, gifted and talented indicator, mode of travel to school, entry date to school, special educational needs, school, attainment data for English, maths and science at end of Year 9 and attendance rate.

Chief Executive Nick Walkley made the gnomic statement:
"This should not be a case for concern relating to safeguarding."

The data was evidently part of a student survey for the government to compare educational development within broad groups. Were the parents consulted? I doubt it. Parents were not consulted about ContactPoint and its related databases, which contain even more sensitive data. One hopes there was no data sharing.

Schools are routinely taking children's fingerprints without permission from their parents, see here.

As many as 3,500 schools take biometric data from pupils to speed up basic administration such as buying canteen lunches or borrowing library books. Dr Emmeline Taylor, who conducted a study on surveillance of pupils funded by Salford University, has revealed that 3,500 schools in the UK - one in seven - are estimated to be using fingerprint technology.

A 2007 survey by the Liberal Democrats found that out of 285 schools using fingerprint scanners, only 48 had first sought parental consent.

Children are subjected to CCTV in their schools, many have to give their thumbprint to obtain a meal or borrow a book, their personal data is collected in vast swathes and lost .... and we are expected to believe that this is for the safety of our children.

Cartoon - on the occasion of the 20th Birthday of Privacy International.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Compulsory is the new voluntary

Now we all knew that the government's aim was for ID cards to become compulsory by stealth and here is Alan Johnson announcing this fact clearly, see here.

"The provisions of the Identity Cards Act 2006 will be amended by further primary legislation, so that everyone aged 16 and over who applies for a British passport will have the choice of being issued with an identity card or a passport (or both documents) and for their identity details, including facial image and fingerprint biometrics, to be recorded on the same National Identity Register."

Last year Kable research found that scrapping identity cards and fingerprinting for passports would save £3.08bn over a decade, whereas scrapping the cards but retaining fingerprinting would reduce the saving to £2.2bn. The government plans to require all 10 fingerprints for passport and ID applications, although only two will be held on the document's chip.

Ask any Lib-Dem or Conservative canvassers what they intend to do about fingerprints in passports. (They both claim they intend to scrap the NIR and ID cards.)

Monday, 29 March 2010

Careless disclosure costs reputations.

From August members of the public will be able to make applications for disclosure from police records about anybody who is in contact with children. It is claimed that the Home Secretary’s decision was justified by Home Office research - this relating to a tiny pilot study.

Hawktalk reveals the fundamental flaws in this egregious scheme.

The procedure involves four steps:
(1) Any person can make a request for information about a "subject"-
(2) Police then do a trawl of PNC, sex offender and local criminal intelligence data
(3) A preliminary risk assessment is made -
(4) Enquiries which do not meet the selection criteria are rejected – others move to the "application" for disclosure procedure,
(a valid enquiry had to pass two thresholds: (1) the subject has unsupervised access to children and (2) the subject lived in the force area.)

Hawtalk makes several important points and it is well worth reading the whole article.

Table 7 of the research report indicates that over half of applications did not have unsupervised contact with children. Hence step(4) of the police procedure should have been step(2); the research made no comment on this anomaly.

The Home Office Research Department has to be made independent of the Home Office.

Should personal data be retained on criminal intelligence systems if the subject has no criminal record and was not previously known to the police?

Such information might then be passed to employers to assess. Now ask a simple question: if you were an employer with a short list of two job-applicants – one of which has this kind of query against his or her name and the other hasn’t - which one do you employ?

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

More ID card creep.

A very unpleasant little amendment to the Licensing Act (2003) is in front of Ministers for approval as a Statutory Instrument (SI). It is very rare for a SI to be amended or changed - so, unless it is rejected when presented to Parliament, it will pass on the 6th of April. See here.

The SI in question is there to address binge drinking by restricting licensees' abilities to offer discounted booze and encourage heavy drinking. Part 4 (2) of this particular SI refers to a licensee's policy, and reads as follows:

The policy must require individuals who appear to the responsible person to be under 18 years of age (or such older age as may be specified in the policy) to produce on request, before being served alcohol, identification bearing their photograph, date of birth and a holographic mark .

This effectively forces pub landlords to demand passport, ID card or driving licence as proof of age and will probably cause a boom in fake ID card sales and theft/loss of identity documents. Naturally the young will be told how more convenient it would be to get a national ID card.

This is another back-door attempt to undermine civil liberties and bolster the National ID Service. Why not write to your MP to make them aware of what's hidden in the small print, and demand that the SI is redrafted before it's accepted.

There are contactless proof of age card systems such as Touch2ID that simply contain a biometric hash of the bearer's fingerprint and which cannot be used for identity fraud. However, one might ask why there is such mania for proof of age? It certainly hasn't prevented a rise in alcohol consumption amongst the young; it is simply yet another attempt to counter the side effects of the total liberalisation of alcohol sale and consumption.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Birmingham to get ID as well as data sharing.

Civil servants are still busily at work spending our money and planning for the years ahead, seemingly oblivious to the upcoming general election. The two main opposition parties and, as far as I can tell, all the minor parties, are opposed to ID cards. Yet we are still spending £230,000 a day on developing this scheme as well as the £1.3 million already having been spent on marketing and advertising. We are now told that Birmingham residents are to be targeted, see here.

The spin is that ID cards can be used instead of a passport for travel in the EU, the reality is that you need a passport as well. The spin is that young people can use it as a proof of age card the reality is that these only cost £10 whereas ID costs £30 accompanied by a lifetime of fees, data-sharing and penalties.

Make sure you ask any political campaigner about ID cards and the database state and ask precisely what they intend to do. Remember, Birmingham is a Lib-Dem/Conservative coalition yet we are all to be given a single customer record and have our data shared, see here. Our EU passports are to eventually contain fingerprints – so if Labour loses the election the fight is still on.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Opting out is easy.

The Summary Care Records (SCR) database - which is central to the government's plans to create health records for 50 million people - contains inaccuracies and omissions that make it difficult for doctors to trust it as a single source of truth, according to a confidential draft report. Researchers at University College, London, found examples where the Summary Care Records central database failed to indicate a patient's allergies or adverse reactions to drugs, and listed "current" medication that the patient wasn't taking. The database also indicated allergies or adverse reactions to drugs the patient did not have.

The researchers found no evidence that incomplete or inaccurate data on the SCR database had led to patients coming to harm - because doctors did not trust the new system as a single source of truth, and took extra time to double-check details of medications and allergies. See here.

The research was commissioned by NHS Connecting for Health which has continued the scheme without waiting for the reports to be completed. So you have paid an extra three quarters of a million pounds in addition to the £12.7bn cost of the National Programme for IT [NPfIT]. About 1.2 million summary care records have already been created and only a tiny proportion of patients have opted out.

So make sure you opt out..

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

The lucky poor. Free ID cards!

The British public bails out the banks and it is then suggested that they could the be used to help curtail our civil liberties.

Kitty Donaldson writes in US magazine Business Week:

The Labour government may ask U.K. banks and supermarkets to subsidize its national identity-card program, paying for documents for poorer customers to attract business.

Home Office minister Meg Hillier said companies might offer to buy the £30 pound cards for people who wouldn’t pay for them otherwise. She named Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group, both part state-owned, as candidates.

"I am keen to hear from business, banks do give incentives to people to open bank accounts. If they are doing that for some clients, would they think of doing that for other groups? Over a lifetime they do make money out of people."

The government’s £4.6 billion programme may see fingerprint readers installed in banks, post offices, courts and schools as a means of checking people are who they say they are. Hillier also said the government has heard suggestions from local authorities that ID cards could replace passes providing free local bus travel for the over-60s!

What a come down for the previous rationale for ID cards as a method for combating terrorism and organised crime.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Secure information hub?

Birmingham City Council (BCC) tells residents that it is improving its customer service. It says it is changing the way it uses your personal information to improve services to you as a customer. The hub will contain a single customer record about you - your name, address, date of birth, gender, together with unspecified information which can be used to confirm your identity. The single customer record will act as an index to other customer information about you. Your data will be perfectly safe - all in one place. This is, presumably, transformational government. You haven't been asked whether you want this and opting out (as far as this is possible) means you have to read page 13 of magazine that has been delivered, have an e-mail and understand what you are opting out of!

You have the right to request that BCC stops using your information in relation to any council service, including the single customer record.

Contact -

Saturday, 13 March 2010

What is the definition of optional?

A report from the US internet security company Cryptohippie puts the UK at number six in the list of the world's most repressive regimes in terms of the electronic surveillance of its citizens, see here. The following are two further examples of how the authorities are keeping an eye on us all.

Firstly, Birmingham Airport has introduced new face recognition gates (optional for the time being) which can be used by adults with a biometric passport from the UK or EU. To enter the gate the passenger places their passport on a reader which reads the passport data and checks them against national and international watch lists, the passenger's face is then matched against the digital image stored on the passport. This will feed into the eBorders and ‘Advanced Passenger Information’ (API) systems that already spread tens of millions of travellers’ personal details around the world.

Secondly we have Clubscan, an ID card scanning system produced by IDScan Biometrics Limited. It takes scanned images of clubbers' ID documents and stores their personal details, for the purpose of age verification, identifying barred members and identifying individuals to the authorities in the case of criminal incidents.

UK licensing authorities are increasingly requiring nightclubs to scan and retain clubbers' ID details.

The aptly named Soviet Union bar in Consett, County Durham is proposing such a No ID No Entry scheme, see here. This is the bright idea of a local police inspector.

He says: "Consett is not particularly rough, but this is all about creating a safer environment for people who want to go out on the town." Naturally the local population haven't been consulted.

The manufacturer claims that "Clubscan is voluntary: You are not obliged to permit a venue to scan your identification through clubscan. Though it is unclear how this might interact with a club's right to refuse entry.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

London - NO2ID day of action. Can you help?

We're having a London day of action this Saturday, the 13th March, in response to the roll out of ID cards to young Londoners aged 16-24. NO2ID groups will be coming from all over the country to help out, so it should be a really good day.

We'll be leafleting/collecting signatures at tube stations, dropping leaflets at Halls of Residence and also doing a run of 'alternative' shops, which are likely to have a lot of customers in the relevant age range. Afterwards obviously, curry! Please bring a travelcard/Oyster Card if you have one.

We'll be meeting at 11.30 at the Ossulston Street Tenants and Residents Hall, entrance on Ossulston Street opposite Brill Place. The postcode is NW1 1EU but please be aware that Google Maps pins the Hall slightly wrongly, look for the entrance on Ossulston Street where there will be copious NO2ID signage. The Hall is equidistant between Kings Cross and Euston Stations.

Phil Booth, our National Coordinator will give a talk on the most recent updates to the Identity scheme before we send people out and about to leaflet/collect signatures.
Please come and join us, no experience is necessary, we'll have jobs for people at every level. If you have a NO2ID T-shirt, please bring it along. If you don't and would like one please let me know and I'll bring one along in your size, we charge £5 per shirt to active people, (which is cost price).

My telephone number is 07500 836 461, please bring it with you on the day and feel free to call if you need to clarify anything.

At the end of the day we'll all go for a Curry on Drumond Street.

Look forward to seeing you there.

Matty Mitford NO2ID Local Groups Coordinator

e-mail -

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Facebook site - Opt Out Now.

A facebook page has been set up called- Protect Your Medical Confidentiality. This relates to 'Summary Care Records' at present being uploaded with great rapidity - to the distress of many health professionals.

The aim is to alert people to the consequences of a letter coming through doors across parts of England, and to clarify the choices you can make.

The Department of Health is currently sending mailshots to people living in some areas, informing them of 'changes to your health records'. These changes are presented as necessary and inevitable but they are not. They shift control of health information from medical professionals to the state and will result in YOUR private details being uploaded onto a centralised system accessible to hundreds of thousands of people - not just doctors.

Link and more information here. Why not send the link to your friends and relatives?

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

ID cards - not many interested.

There would appear to be little interest in ID cards in the Northwest of England. Since January there have been a mere 14 applications per day, see here. Perhaps the fact that the Tories and Lib-Dems claim they will scrap ID cards and the Don't be a Guinea Pig campaign by NO2ID in the Northwest has successfully educated people as to what having an ID card really entails.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Legal niceties?

Databases are growing like Topsy. Here is yet another. BAE systems has been awarded a €2.3 million contract to develop a Strategic crime and immigration information management system (SCIIMS) for the European Union.

The use of controversial information technologies such as data mining, profiling and predictive modelling are explicitly mandated by the EU contract, in spite of widespread concerns about their legality and effectiveness.

SCIIMS will mine large data sets. This could include EU databases such as the EUROPOL and Schengen Information Systems, as well as national police and immigration databases in the member states. Unless these practices are regulated by national or international law, they will almost certainly be unlawful. Yet there is no mention whatsoever of data protection within the EU-BAE contract.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Well done Germany.

After an outcry and more than 35,000 complaints, see here, Germany's High Court has told police and secret services that they must stop storing email and telephone data and delete information already collected. The court said that data was not properly protected and that authorities were not sufficiently clear as to why they needed it. Germany will continue to comply with the EU's Data Retention Directive and keep records for six months BUT will not open data packets to record who Karl contacted on Facebook, for example, without gaining legal permission.

Here in the UK we've only heard of the STASI and only joke, so far, about our police state. YET you are paying over £2 billion for the Intercept Modernisation Programme (IMP), which plans that communications providers will maintain giant databases of everything YOU do online. They want providers to process the mass of data to link it to individuals, to make it easier for our authorities to access, without asking for a warrant. This will be general oversight and 'phishing' of your personal communications. This will be the equivalent of opening your letters.

Write to your MP and say that the terrorists have won if we are subjected to such Stasi-like surveillance.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Not so elementary?

All 43 police forces in England and Wales are to start using mobile fingerprint scanners enabling officers to cross-reference prints with national records, namely the National Fingerprint Database (IDENT1.) Up to 3,000 devices, will be in use by this summer,see here.

The National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) quango has signed a three-year contract worth £9m with a US firm Cogent Systems. This sounds a lot but the salaries alone of the NPIA cost £100 million a year as you can see from this link.

The technique of forensic fingerprint analysis used to be regarded as a perfect system of identification. This is no longer true. Formerly there was always a 16-point method of comparing prints. However, police chiefs have decided the current 16-point match standard is unnecessarily tough and results in guilty people going free. The use of experts was considered more reliable but four fingerprint experts were suspended in Scotland after Detective Constable Shirley McKie was wrongly accused of being at the scene of a murder in 1997. Also, tests have shown that forensic fingerprint experts may come to different conclusions when presented with the same sets of prints. Nonetheless the popular view is that the system is foolproof.

The larger the database, the greater the possibility of two fingers having roughly similar sets of coordinates and our police have a database of over 8 million sets of fingerprints already.

Fingerprint scanners will be very convenient for the police, as a check will take just two minutes and we are told that fingerprints will not be added to a database. Nonetheless, will this just be used for suspects who would otherwise have had to be taken to the police station? Or could there be some mission creep? Would it not be so easy just to check a few random, suspicious types; perhaps a watercolourist painting a factory? It's happened before, see here.

If you get one of those leaflets asking you to voice tell your prospective candidate what most concerns you, tell them that you want your civil liberties back. (You don't necessarily even have to state your address.)

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Surveillance spin.

Our Prime Minister gave a speech yesterday where he told us that crime was down substantially and that all we have to fear is fear of crime itself. He said that the DNA database and CCTV cameras have played a great part in this decline but failed to back this up with any figures; instead he told us about an emotive crime that had been solved because an unconvicted man's DNA was on the database. On the other hand, Mr Cameron failed even to mention the database state in his conference speech.

So, make sure you mention ID cards and the database state if you ever get someone canvassing for support at your door.

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Criticisms over new Blackburn ID card Centre

Anger over the launch of the controversial ID card scheme in Blackburn has sparked campaigners to form a local opposition group. The group will be part of the national NO2ID campaign which opposes ID cards and the Database State. A launch meeting which is open to the public will take place on Monday 15th March at 7.30pm at Blackburn Library. The group hopes concerned members of the public will be joined by opposition politicians, and asks anyone interested in further information to email

Despite opposing the scheme on principle Local politicians including Blackburn with Darwen Council leader and Conservative Mike Lee had cautiously welcomed the news that the cards would be processed in Blackburn, bringing jobs to the area. Campaigners have hit back at this jobs claim with new information obtained under the Freedom of Information act showing that no new jobs are being created here in Blackburn and existing resources are being used.

James Elsdon-Baker North of England coordinator for NO2ID said:

The claim ID cards will bring jobs is the latest wheeze in a string of excuses for why we need them, we have shown this to be misleading like many of the other claims surrounding ID cards. The reality is the cards are a gross waste of public funds. They will likely be scrapped after the election. Rather than becoming Guinea Pigs for this dangerous scheme, people would be better off saving their £30 or spending it locally here in Blackburn.

The Identity and Passport Service (IPS) claims that ID cards are a
“convenient” form of proof of age and will therefore be particularly useful for teenagers. It is not so forthright about the fact that, once on the system, you have obligations for the rest of your life. You must look after the card and report if it is lost, stolen, or damaged, and you must keep your official record on the National Identity Register up to date for the rest of your life. There are penalties for not doing so.

Meg Hillier MP, the minister responsible, has confirmed that nothing will get you removed from the Register – not even death.

See links:

Blackburn Citizen.
full FOI request

For a full list of the fifty categories of information that may legally be held on the National Identity Register, read Schedule 1 of the Identity Cards Act 2006 here.

For more information contact-
Frankie the Blackburn NO2ID coordinator at (07539938399)
James Elsdon-Baker NO2ID North of England coordinator (07817605162)
Phil Booth (National Co-ordinator, (07974 230 839)
Guy Herbert (General Secretary, ( 07956 544 308)
Michael Parker (Press Officer, on (07773 376 166)

Saturday, 27 February 2010

NHS Spine

The Summary Care Record (SCR) scheme (the Spine) will make outlines of medical records available to hundreds of thousands of NHS staff in England. The idea is to provide doctors and nurses in England with easier access to information on patients registered with other doctors without having to call or fax their main medics, see here. The cost is over £12 billion.

Security is a problem. A Scottish doctor managed to look at the health records of both Gordon Brown and Alex Salmond, because he was 'curious' and was not prosecuted. (Scotland has a similar scheme.)

Roll-out of Summary Care Records is gathering pace. To date nearly 1.2 million Summary Care Records have been created and over 6 million patients have been written to as part of a Public Information Programme.

The system is fraught with privacy pitfalls while offering questionable clinical benefits, according to Professor Ross Anderson of Cambridge University.

The opt out rate remains below 1%. You could join this select number and, if you have a serious medical condition, if I were you I would wear a tag. Especially if you have a surname such as Smith or Jones.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Balancing risks or covering backs?

Paediatricians have to have a CRB check for every NHS trust they work in. This small group tend to move around the country more than other specialist doctors in order to perform operations or cover absences.

It can take two months for a check to arrive and, as a result sick children have to travel long distances to see a surgeon or have their operations delayed. The Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) has strongly criticised the "overzealous" interpretations of the rules by NHS trusts and long delays in returning results.

The RCS said medical staff with an enhanced CRB check should be allowed to work in any hospital, and pointed out the restrictions prevented trainee paediatricians from gaining experience in different areas. Some trainee surgeons went through more than 10 separate checks in two years, see the Nursing Times.

It could be pointed out that the risk from a paedophile could override the risks of a delayed operation. However, I doubt it would require a particularly skilled statistician to make an analysis. Has any paediatrician been charged or convicted of a sexual attack on a child between CRB checks? Or ever?

Meanwhile here is a map to show the instances of sexual abuse on children by those who have undergone a CRB check and have been given a clear record, see here. Hat tip - Big Brother Watch.

Personally I'd take the (statistically insignificant) risk and go for the operation.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

More publicity for NO2ID

A survey by the Daily Echo found 69 per cent of those polled in Hampshire agreed with the principle of the DNA database. Some 65 per cent said they would also be happy to have their DNA profiles placed on there indefinitely. The most common reason they said, was that they simply had nothing to hide. This contrasts with the 'State of the Nation' poll carried out for the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust which found that 61% believe police should not be allowed to keep a person's DNA profile if they have not been charged with an offence.

There is an interesting discussion between Det Supt Jason Hogg and Dr. Ian Thomas, Southampton Co-ordinator for NO2ID in the Daily Echo, see here. Dr Thomas gives an excellent argument against the DNA retention of innocent people, he states that:

...only 1 in 5,000 prisoners are in prison thanks to the DNA database.

Ministers have been asked repeatedly in parliamentary questions to reveal the number of crimes that have been detected or solved as a result of the retention of innocent people on the database and on each occasion they have replied that this data is not available.

Examination of the statistics show that the Home Office is either deliberately misleading the public or fails to understand its own figures.

And then, when the figures don’t stand up they resort to emotive individual cases.

Det Supt Jason Hogg's argument for DNA retention consists largely of such 'emotive individual cases'.

Dithering for Britain?

A couple of months before the election and three months after the first ID cards were issued, the Identity and Passport Service(IPS) has discovered that it must redesign the National Identity Register from scratch, see here. This is the register that the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have pledged to scrap.

Despite many warnings it has just discovered that using the Department for Works and Pensions' database to store the biographical details of ID card holders is problematical. The IPS said:

"No decision has been made on the solution for the biographical store for the National Identity Register."

Monday, 22 February 2010

ContactPoint problems.

Thankfully, both the Lib-Dems and the Conservatives have pledged to abolish the ContactPoint database. We find that there have been five security breaches in the pilot phase of the system, see here. There have also been 51,000 requests for information to be shielded, however there are strict rules as to when this is permitted.

An example of an internal emails from Surrey County Council illustrates the concern that has been privately expressed by officials about the database.

The process is not user friendly. Data is an issue locally, a lot of it doesn’t match up, especially addresses. There are also issues around what needs recording for each agency to get consistency.

A DCSF spokesman said:

The bottom line is that ContactPoint is up and running and being used successfully by authorised front line workers’ in their day-to-day work.

Hence a system which was launched in order to protect children, to save social workers' time and to have a 'joined-up' process would appear to be going the way of many government IT projects: creating more work, costing a great deal and not improving the problem it was established to solve. Or, it is a great success!

See also here.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Protest against body scanning.

There is a facebook campaign against airport body scanning, see here. So far there are - 10,000 members and climbing.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Uni Nanny

The escalation in fraudulent applications as a result of the ill-considered points- based student visa system has had the usual result of penalising genuine students, see here. Academics and university staff are now being required by law to act as government informants and draconian surveillance systems are being imposed. One such system is called Uni Nanny and, no, this is not a joke. Here it is in action and, scarily, the students seem perfectly happy about it all.

Shockingly, Network75 Ltd is a spin-out company of the University of Glamorgan. One business focus is an electronic web-based student monitoring system that can improve retention of university students. The university owns the trademark name Uni-Nanny. See here.

Friday, 12 February 2010

NO2ID and the EU dimension.

NO2ID, with some financial backing from Microsoft, has won admission to the industry working group of Project STORK, the EU programme for devising interoperability standards for electronic ID systems across Europe.

"We know that IPS is one of those around the table, and is using the interoperability of passports as an excuse to drive fingerprints on chips..... If developing European standards start to present a threat to privacy and civil liberties, then we are now in a much better position to know about it and lobby against it." Phil Booth of NO2ID.

Let us just say that it is better late than never. Schengen members already have fingerprint biometrics in passports, many have compulsory ID and EU ID interoperability systems are already very advanced. See IDABC and a cheerful video giving you all the advantages is here.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

A fingerprint is for life.

Government seems to have done a good job in softening up our youth for a Big Brother society. Children have been encouraged to use fingerprints to obtain meals or take out library books in school and fingerprint cartoons have been used as propaganda. Here is a rather chilling result.

BBC news reports that Mr Parker, the owner of an outdoor in Bridlington has installed a DIY ID card reader system. Who can really blame him as the government, which has cheerfully permitted 24 hour opening and cheap alcohol, imposes draconian fines and on those found guilty of selling to underage drinkers and smokers.

Mr Parker said: "We get a lot of young people coming in and trying to buy cans of lager or cigarettes. The scanner is an excellent solution."

His shop is near a large college and in the first week since the equipment was installed, 70 young people have signed up to use it. Customers are asked to provide a driving licence or passport as proof of identity and their details are entered on the scanner. Their fingerprint is then entered into the system and linked to the proof of identity.

"Once that's done all they need to do each time they come in is put their thumb or fingerprint on to the system and we will then let them have the goods," said Mr Parker.

Eighteen-year-old Brett seems cheerfully casual about it: "If I forget, I don't need to use my ID any more. It's better really because I don't have to keep showing my ID."

He seems to forget that fingerprints are for life and, once stolen, cannot be changed.

LTKA provides lots of information regarding the fingerprinting of children.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Proposed reforms to the database state

Here are a couple of links if you have an hour or so spare. The Conservative proposals and the Liberal Democrats' Freedom Bill.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Privacy in the EU

Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media, has promised tough new laws to curb privacy-breaching technology and said there needed to be clarity as to how key principles like consent and transparency work in practice and to ensure that data was safe no matter where the data controller was located. She said there should be promotion of 'privacy by design', see here.

As the same time we learn that large amounts of confidential personal information held about British citizens on a giant computer network spanning the European Union could be accessed by more than 500,000 terminals, as reported by the Observer.

The figure was revealed in a Council of the European Union document examining proposals to establish a new agency, based in France, that would manage much of the 27 EU member states' shared data. But the sheer number of access points to the Schengen Information System (SIS) – which holds information regarding immigration status, arrest ­warrants, entries on the police national ­computer and a multitude of personal details – has triggered concerns about the security of the data.

Statewatch, said it was aware of a case in Belgium where personal information extracted from the system by an official was sold to an organised criminal gang.

Although the UK and Eire are not signed up to Schengen, a lot of their personal data is.